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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Jonestown: A "Paradise" Lost?? How Much Longer Will Cult Apologists, Inc. Continue Perverting The True Story Of People's Temple?

It's time.

Silence be broken. Stanley, Mac, Becky, I know how much you've missed me. Please do understand. I've been miserably depressed over the Virginia Tech slaughter and its aftermath. Our self-serving politicians and corporate-suffocated media elites continue suffering a worsening case of what can be called the "Institutional Memory Lapse Syndrome".

It seems to be infecting a lot of other issues too. Yes, for example, mass killings on a much greater scale, in far away places--South America--that could have been easily prevented, right here in our own backyard.

Still amazes me, though, that even when a mental patient can commit the most horrendous school massacre in U.S. history, and all the devastating grief that follows, and all the questions & discussion about how to resolve the threat, WHAT THEN TAKES PLACE? Not one damn thing. The powers-that-be shrug and exit stage right.

What do some of our international "peers" make of all this? Here's one voice:

The Courier Mail (April 25), published in Australia, carried an opinion piece by Dr. Patrick Bishop, head of the Politics and Public Policy at Department at Griffith University, in Brisbane, which struck a pessimistic tone on whether the Virginia Tech killings would have any major impact on gun control laws in the United States:

"On the likely policy outcomes, despite talk of increased gun control (guns are in fact already banned on campus, under Tech rules), I don't anticipate there will be a co-ordinated national or federal response. Attempts to bring about national legislation after the Columbine massacre in Colorado eight years ago have lapsed.

Politicians in the U.S. Senate who have already raised the issue have been charged with insensitivity, with comments that we must wait to observe appropriate grieving and the issue should not (yet) become 'political.' This is not only the result of the action of strong gun lobby groups but the more broadly held view that an increase in gun control is a control on freedom.

"So, unlike the Port Arthur massacre in Australia 11 years ago, this incident will not result in stricter gun laws."

Depressing, and insufferable, especially when you consider all the other lobby tentacles wrapped around our honorable elected officials. Tammany Hall has never been so nicely refurbished.

What finally got my blog blood flowing out of its deep freeze back into a steady simmer started sometime about a week ago, when I was watching a Stephen King film that's been a standard on late night TV, called "Cat's Eye." Its a trilogy of your classic Kingish suspense stories, but I think only the first one is any good, concerning a guy being terrorized into quitting smoking by a crazed clinic.

Ah, James Woods. One of my favorites. But of course, at the beginning, his pal pushing him to undergo the cessation "therapy" promises, just as he goes in, "It'll turn your life around." To which the smart ass Woods character (which he overplays with screaming hilarity) has to answer:

"That's what Jim Jones said just before he spiked the punch!"

Okay. Not that those "Drink The Koolaid" references aren't all the rage, now, and mind you, this film was made in the 80's. I'm used to it, like the rest of us. But then comes mid-week and the History Channel, my favorite channel--really, it is, except on occasion--presents "History Rocks". And, yep, it's the 70's Week, one and all! They describe the show this way:

Take a whirlwind look at the 1970s through the music, footage and personalities from the time. HISTORY ROCKS pairs unforgettable news stories from the '70s with blockbuster songs from the same era. Each segment combines the thrills of a music video with the power of a documentary to create a visceral and cinematic experience. Each hour contains seven mini-documentary music videos that focus on the history of the decade.

The program takes a popular song, a known radio hit from the '70s, and explores a key historical person, place or event that clearly ties-in to that song (ex. Blue Oyster Cult's haunting classic, "Don't Fear The Reaper" paired with the tragic events of Jonestown). These visually exciting "mini-documentaries" are created our of stills, footage, expert interview bites — all set to an inspiring song that immediately takes you back to that era. HISTORY ROCKS balances a young, energetic "pop" style with real history creating a dynamic, engaging visual experience of a truly transformative decade in American history.

Ladies and gentlemen, the profoundly "Rockin'" lyrical portrait of the People's Temple, sung with some comprehensive graphics, in just under three and a half minutes, by that band (which I saw live way back when) we affectionately dubbed "The Cult":

Don´t Fear The Reaper Lyrics

All our times have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
We can be like they are

Come on baby... Don't fear the Reaper
Baby take my hand... Don't fear the Reaper
We'll be able to fly... Don't fear the Reaper
Baby I'm your man...

Valentine is done
Here but now they're gone
Romeo and Juliet
Are together in eternity...
Romeo and Juliet

40,000 men and women everyday... Like Romeo and
40,000 men and women everyday... Redefine
Another 40,000 coming everyday...We can be like
they are

Come on baby... Don't fear the Reaper
Baby take my hand... Don't fear the Reaper
We'll be able to fly... Don't fear the Reaper
Baby I'm your man...

Love of two is one
Here but now they're gone
Came the last night of sadness
And it was clear she couldn't go on
The door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew and then disappeared
The curtains flew then he appeared
Saying don't be afraid

Come on baby... And we had no fear
And we ran to him... Then they started to fly
They looked backward and said goodbye
We had become like they are
We had taken his hand
We had become like they are

Come on baby...don't fear the reaper

Sure, I like rock. The bigger question, however, is whether the effect of treating this complex history like a cheap video game is going to snuff out a thorough understanding of the dynamics of cults, which allows them to swallow up body & soul. Or the menace of ruthless demagogues like Jim Jones, hawking camouflaged highway-to-hell rides in express transports provided by power elites. If the following view is any indication, things are far from promising. It's from a blog ("Out of the Inkwell"), written by someone claiming 30 years in mass communications. Well, now--go and hold hands with the rest of those film critics who've proven that gullibility runs the gamut.

"Nelson said he remembered hearing about Jones and the Peoples Temple on the radio in the 1970s. He said that members of the San Francisco-based church were living out socially progressive ideals.

'It sounded so sane,' Nelson recalled to Reminder Publications in a telephone interview.

That perception changed when the 1978 mass suicide and the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan was reported. Nelson said the story of 'the crazy man' stopped with his death and the deaths of many of his followers.

In his research Nelson found that Jones was 'a very complicated man. It was hard to make it simple.'

Nelson went back to Jones' Indiana hometown and said that Jones 'was never normal. He was a strange guy who hid [his true feelings].'

As an adult Jones became a controversial preacher who broke down racial barriers and fought for social change. He and his wife adopted African-American and Asian children, making them one of the first multi-racial families in his home state.

He formed a successful commune in California and then decided to bring his ministry to a large city, San Francisco, where he became a political force.

Although Nelson said that 'on the surface, [the church] was very, very attractive'
to many people, there were problems revolving around Jones' sexual practices and faked healings, among other issues.

With his church under greater scrutiny, eventually Jones decided that he and his congregation could only practice their brand of religion and socialism outside of the United States. Jones acquired property in Guyana and built a small town there.

Nelson believes there was no one trigger to Jones' deteriorating mental state that led to the move to Guyana and the abuses that culminated in the suicide. He thinks Jones' problems started with childhood and grew more severe.

'With more and more power, things got worse,' Nelson said. 'In Guyana, he was totally isolated. He built a little kingdom.'

Nelson said that people who have seen the film have been affected by it.

'It's such a dark story. People joined [the Peoples Temple] with all of the best intentions and were led astray.'

'There's no happy ending to it,' he said. 'It's a cautionary tale.'


There's an old saying in show business that a performer should always leave an audience wanting more. I'm not sure if that's the best approach in documentary film making, but at the end of 'Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple' I did want more.

Nelson's film goes a very long way in humanizing the people who joined Peoples Temple. Through numerous interviews, it becomes clear the congregation was not made up of people who could be simply be written off as mindless members of a cult. Instead these were people who were swept up in the idealism of the 1960s and early '70s and saw this church as a true vehicle of change.'

"Swept up" wasn't the word for it, pal. This is what one might call the witchcraft school of cinematography, practiced to perfection by Stanley Nelson; he purposely, deceitfully avoided the facts that would compromise the "idealistic" portrait he and his wife, Marcia Smith, and co-writer Noland Walker (a former cult member) were painting. No, they neglected completely to mention the mafia-like operations that went on in Ukiah, years before the move to Guyana, and so much more. Our fawning Nelson Fan Club Member doesn't seem to have a clue. Or want to.

All those former cult members interviewed in Nelson's film, and even the people in the "extra" segments on the DVD, such as Becky Moore, offered nothing that would ever restore credibility to this utterly dishonest film maker's product. Becky Moore, whose two sisters Annie and Carolyn perished, it turned out were among the cult's primary executioners.

Moore pretends, to this day, they weren't brainwashed. They "just really seemed to like" life in that Marxist slave camp. No, no, brainwashing doesn't exist. Cults? Oh, they're really just "New Religious Movements". Now, for all this "expertise", Prof. Moore (and her cohort, husband Mac MacGhee), not only were the "official advisers" to Lord Nelson, but also to Director Tim Wolochatiuk's "Jonestown: Paradise Lost".

This TV film, which is becoming a regular on the History Channel, is, between the Stan and history rockin' mutilation versions, the hands-down lessor of the three evils. Nevertheless, it is woefully inadequate in terms of an accurate summary of what led the cult to Guyana. It was broadcast this past Friday and will be broadcast again this morning at 9:00 A.M.--for those of you interested in viewing another fable about this "New Religious Movement" that lost its paradise.

While Nelson is off the deep end in his quest to be the champion "revolutionary documentarian," Wolochatiuk should know better. But like print media reporters such as the bright and shiningly mendacious Reiterman & Kilduff, they just want the easy way out. Which means either covering up the story of the San Francisco Examiner exposes that the media failed to pursue, or outright lying. Never met Reiterman, but Kilduff escaped almost like a quarter horse when I questioned him outside the Berkeley Rep two years ago (that was in the midst of an appalling Temple apologist play, which is subject for a whole separate post).

The Jonestown Apologists Alert is currently in contact with former members of the People's Temple who will strip off the Nelson sugar-coating and reveal some of the terrible realities of life as a captive of Jim Jones during the "activist" Ukiah years portrayed so vividly in this fraud of a film.

Now, once censored by craven Examiner editors under continued threats by Temple strongman Tim Stoen, is the second in the series of Fall, 1972 exposes on Jim Jones's stranglehold on the little hamlet of Ukiah.

Had the media, or government officials, or clergy--including Becky Moore's father--just stepped forward, this clearly-revealed cult terrorist could have been driven out of town. But instead, they empowered him, and provided fuel for a holocaust.

Bob Woodward calls his book about the conniving, deluded behavior of Bush and his cronies in Iraq, "State of Denial". Let's see. Maybe his next book could cover some mass denial on the West Coast. Here, on record, is the following rave review on the brutal, torturing cultist Jim Jones, by former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, in July 1977: "When somebody like Jim Jones comes on the scene...and constantly stresses the need for freedom of speech and equal justice under law for all people, that absolutely scares the hell out of most everybody...I will be here when you are under attack, because what you are about is what the whole system ought to be about!"

If you were troubled by the lack of accuracy at the start of "Jonestown: Paradise Lost", or even that absurd title, consider writing to their management. It was anything but that, as you'll learn in this devastating story.

By Lester Kinsolving
Examiner Religion Writer

REDWOOD VALLEY, September, 1972 -- The Rev. James Jones, charismatic prophet-pastor of People's Temple Christian (Disciples) Church here, has repeatedly told his congregation that he is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ -- and that San Francisco is due for impending destruction by an atom bomb, The Examiner has learned.

Eyewitnesses to these stated claims by the Rev. Mr. Jones have signed affidavits and submitted to tape recorded interviews, both in the Bay Area and in the vicinity of Redwood Valley, near Ukiah.

Some have asked for and have been guaranteed anonymity. Two who did not, Opal and Marion Freestone, were married by The Prophet Jones. They were parishioners of his for more than a decade and followed him from Indianapolis to California.

Yet they are no longer parishioners of the Prophet Jones -- because with Marion's disablement in an accident, they cannot afford to pay the 25 per cent of gross income which the People's Temple demanded.

Marion Freestone recalls that five years ago he accompanied Jones and five of the flock to one of the caves which pockmarked the area around Ukiah. He recalls seeing Marvin Sweeney and Rick Stahl lower themselves out of sight in this cave -- which he recalls was designated as the refuge for members of The People's Temple when the bomb destroys San Francisco and other major cities. Reference to this cave were heard by a number of additional witnesses.

(Freestone still has the large medicine kit filled with bandages and vitamin pills, a staple of People's Temple secret diet, as prescribed by The Prophet Jones.)

He and other witnesses recall The Prophet Jones's repeated warnings not to look south, toward San Francisco, when the bomb drops -- due to the blinding flash.

He also recalls that The Prophet has assured all of the flock that he will warn them of this doomsday enough in advance so that they alone can escape destruction.

The Freestones and other witnesses also recall repeated instances in which Jones, (after the congregation had been carefully checked for any strangers) has shouted:

"Who am I?"

To this, the mammoth and bedazzled congregation has screamed:

"You're Jesus Christ!"

Once you can get a congregation to believe such things, the dividends can be impressive, as attested by the renowned wealth acquired by Philadelphia's famed Father Divine -- who admitted that he himself was God Almighty.

Yet that movement wilted somewhat when the alleged demigod Divine proved to be shockingly mortal -- by dropping dead.

This lesson was hardly lost upon a dynamic young faith healer named Jim Jones who, according to Eugene Corder of Indianapolis, visited Father Divine in the late 1950s. According to other witnesses, Jones has spoken affirmatively of the cherubic-looking, ingenious, and affable black deity.

While Gods are not supposed to die, Jesuses can either resurrect or ascend -- which may explain the Rev. Mr. Jones' more modest posture as Jesus Reincarnate, when compared to his apparent model in Philadelphia.

Yet the financial rewards are hardly modest, given such required donation as 25% of the gross income and some 4000 members.

Such a financial bonanza must, however, be rigidly guarded and its members impressively disciplined.

That members of People's Temple are carefully regimented was evident on the sidewalks of the Examiner, when 150 of Jones' flock picketed for hours, quietly and under impressive control.

They were protesting this writer's reporting of various criticisms of The Prophet Jones. But among these pickets were those who, just the previous week (before the Examiner had published anything about Jones or the Temple) wrote 54 letters.

Those letters are as strikingly uniform in structure as was that impressively regimented picket line. The letters all either commend this writer's reporting, or his weekly column -- most of them quoting Jones' own high commendations in this regard.

When apprised of this, Opal Freestone laughed and recalled that one of the regular requirements of People's Temple members is "letter writing sessions," where members are required to turn in as many as 10 letters per day.

These letters, she told The Examiner, are censored. If they are approved by Jones and his lieutenants, they are sent to anyone on whom The Prophet wishes to impress his desires (or the willingness of his followers to obey him).

Another regular requirement of People's Temple members is attendance at "Catharsis Sessions." During these meetings, which can last for hours, members either voluntarily confess even the most intimate sins (especially those which are sexual) to the assembled congregation -- or else they are called up and made to confess amidst ferocious critiques from other members.

Mrs. Freestone also recalls that she was given orders not to associate with non-members of the Temple, except as absolutely necessary in her secular job. As for those who leave the congregation, they are either to be shunned -- or warned that something dreadful will happen to them.

This technique has worked effectively for generations of voodoo leaders and witch doctors. And in Ukiah, given the present circumstances, it works especially well.

The city's population is 10,300 -- while the reported membership of The People's Temple is 4,700.

This awesome segment of the body politic has managed to infiltrate almost every power structure in the Ukiah Valley.

People's Temple members are employed in almost every business or industry in the area. (After eating with two witnesses late at night in one restaurant, this writer was informed that the waitress was a member of People's Temple -- as were two couples sitting one booth away.)

The cult has members on the school board, among the Grand Jury (of which The Prophet Jones has served as foreman), in the Sheriff's Department and -- most significantly, in the apex of law enforcement: The District Attorney's Office.

But in the Mendocino County Welfare Dept. there is the key to Prophet Jones' plans to expand the already massive influx of his followers -- and have it supported by tax money.

The Examiner has learned that at least five of the disciples of The Ukiah Messiah are employees of this Welfare Department, and are therefore of invaluable assistance in implementing his primary manner of influx: the adoption of large numbers of children of minority races.

Welfare Department statistics have been obtained by The Examiner which show that most categories of welfare recipients have remained generally static -- in a comparison of June 1967 with June of this year.

But in one category -- aid to families with dependent children -- the case load has soared -- from 563 in 1967 to 1, 027 this June.

In addition to ordering his followers to adopt as many children as possible, The Prophet Jones is recalled by witnesses as having recurrently issued orders as to how they are to vote.

And even if any of his massive flock should in a sinful moment care to disobey Jesus Reincarnate, their astounding public obeisance to the Rev. Mr. Jones is hardly lost upon observing political leaders -- who can easily measure the effect of a 4,700-member voting block in a town of 10,300.

If the civil government is awed, the communications media have proven downright subservient.

Ukiah has two radio stations (one with the call letters KUKI) and a daily newspaper (circulation 7,461) called The Daily Journal.

KUKI has provided The Prophet Jones with hours of free time in which to denounce his critics, in tones so hypnotically dulcet as to recall commercials attesting the gentle action of Fletcher's Castoria.

When dissenters dare to criticize the Rev. Mr. Jones on a KUKI talk show, they are ridiculed by the talkmaster.

As for The Ukiah Daily Journal, some 23 clippings about The Prophet Jones were recently hand-delivered to The Examiner (by an employee of the Mendocino County Probation Dept.) They are so effusive as to suggest that they could have been dictated by The Prophet himself.

Most recently, The Daily Journal decorated 3 top columns of its front page with a photograph of The Prophet Jones. He is accompanied by two of his adopted sons, all clad in coats and neckties, posed squatting on the front lawn with three large dogs.

Such polished political ploys apparently appeal to many -- for The Prophet Jones seems to have admirers who are not (yet) of his fold.

But there are other residents of the area -- including one who has known the Rev. Mr. Jones for nearly two decades, from the vivid vantage point of the inside of The People's Church. And for Marion Freestone, at least, the atmosphere in the Ukiah area is eerie.

This was obvious when the elderly man pointed to an object on the floor next to his chair, a holstered .38 caliber pistol.

"We're scared of those people at People's Temple," he said. "As soon as we can save enough money, we're moving out of here."

This reaction confirmed what former Ukiah Baptist pastor Richard Taylor described to the Attorney General's office as:

"An atmosphere of terror."

By others, who have also been inside the Rev. Jim Jones's People's Temple, this Ukiah Messiah is regarded as more maniacal than messianic -- in his exercising a ministry which they feel is better described as a monstrosity.